Government Refuses to Build Better Homes For All

Today the Labor Party and the LNP Government refused to support the campaign which will mandate minimum accessibility standards for new homes built. 

Abigail moved:

(1) That this House acknowledges the Building Better Homes Campaign, which:

(a) calls for minimum accessibility standards to be included in the National Building Code;

(b) has already been committed to by Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory; and

(c) will ensure a consistent national approach to regulating accessibility standards in Australia, supporting those with mobility limitations to live with dignity and support.

(2) That this House notes that:

(a) since Australia's voluntary Livable Housing Guidelines were introduced in 2010, only 5 per cent of new home builds meet accessibility standards; and

(b) there is a growing demand for accessible housing, due to Australia's ageing population and the number of Australians with disability mobility limitations projected to almost double over the next 40 years.

(3) That this House recognises the significant challenges and exclusion that the current lack of accessible housing creates for people with disability and older people, in their own homes and any home they visit.

(4) That this House calls on the New South Wales Government to formally adopt the new mandatory minimum accessibility standards set out in the revised National Construction Code, and stand with the Building Better Homes Campaign in supporting the quality of life of Australians with mobility limitations.

 

After delivering the motion, Abigial spoke on the need for NSW to Build Better Homes:

New South Wales is home to approximately 1.37 million people with disability and by 2031 will be home to an estimated 1.8 million people aged 65 and over. Yet, while Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have chosen to adopt the new mandatory minimum accessibility standards set out in the new National Construction Code, this NSW Liberal-Nationals Government has not.

There is no doubt that housing is integral to people's wellbeing. Inaccessible housing directly impacts the daily lives of millions of people in our State who have mobility limitations, use a wheelchair or a mobility aid, and people who require assistance with personal care such as showering or using the toilet. Those individuals in our community are faced with those difficulties because of the way that houses are built to disable them from completing daily tasks or even entering doorways. The effects are adverse and wide reaching, impacting individuals and their families or carers in aspects of mental health, social inclusion and economic participation. A survey respondent to the Building Better Homes Campaign, which successfully won the national inclusion of the standards into the National Construction Code, said in 2020:

We look at design and think oh yeah, just get him through a door. But no, get him through a door to get to work, to get on the train. That's what the right door does, it provides an opportunity. It's all about opportunities. And that's what design does.

The minimum standards require the basic level of accessibility for every new home built. For example, the inclusion of at least one entrance with no steps and a toilet on the entry level. This is basic stuff. Mandating those standards is the bare minimum for all Australians to live in or enter any home, regardless of their mobility needs. But that code is not only about people with mobility needs; it will have a beneficial impact on all Australians. Any Australian who wishes to welcome into their home a friend, family member, employee or acquaintance who has a mobility impairment should be able to do so at any point. That is what the minimum accessibility standards will do. So why is the New South Wales Government refusing to join the majority of Australia in implementing a reform that would change the lives of millions of people in our community?

During budget estimates I asked the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation why New South Wales is not joining the majority of Australia in implementing the minimum standards. The Minister told me that "New South Wales has chosen not to go down that path purely because of the economic benefits". That says it all, doesn't it? This Government has once again chosen to prioritise protecting the construction industry from a minor inconvenience ahead of the benefit to all of us in making homes accessible. If the Government is so concerned with purely economic benefits, it should take note of the fact that building homes in line with those standards is estimated to cost only an extra $3,000, but retrofitting a home to those standards costs on average $75,000. Or perhaps it could take note of the Premier's comment during the same round of estimates that having homes people can continue to occupy as they age is "going to become a more important issue as our population ages here in our State". Of course, the Government will go on to tell us that it does not want to further decrease housing affordability by imposing an additional estimated 1 per cent build cost on all new homes.

Perhaps to offset that small additional cost the Government could consider any number of housing affordability measures that it has previously ruled out because it would decrease the viability of commodifying housing as an investment rather than as a human right. Housing is a human right, and that includes the right of people with mobility impairments to a home that is built to suit their needs. To this Government I say it is not too late to join Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in mandating the National Construction Code minimum accessibility standards for all new homes. It will benefit all of us—every one of us who has a physical disability, who wants to grow old in their own home, who may break a leg or sprain an ankle at some point in the future, and who wants to welcome people into their home who meets any of those criteria. I finish by quoting the late Stella Young, an Australian comedian, journalist and disability rights activist. She said:

"I subscribe to what's called the "social model of disability", which tells us that we are more disabled by the society that we live in rather than by our bodies or our diagnoses.

We are learning strength and endurance, not against our bodies and our diagnoses, but against a world that exceptionalizes and objectifies us. I really think that this lie that we've been sold about disability is the greatest injustice. It makes life hard for us. And that quote, "The only disability in life is a bad attitude" the reason that that's bullshit is because it's just not true, because in the social model of disability no amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it into a ramp."

I commend the motion to the House.

 

The motion was not agreed to and did not pass in the Chamber. 

If you believe NSW should build homes for every body, support my campaign by visiting this link.

 

For the full debate, see Hansard here.

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